ASME-Landmark:Vulcan Street Power Plant


The Vulcan Street Power Plant, which began operation only twenty-six days after Thomas Edison's first steam plant began operating on Pearl Street in New York (landmark #46), was the first Edison hydroelectric central station to serve a system of private and commercial customers in North America.

On September 30, 1882, an Edison "K" type dynamo produced electricity from a water-powered turbine to light three buildings (two paper mills and the home of H.J. Rogers, a paper mill owner who was the leader in introducing electric light in Appleton), at rate of about 12 1/2 kilowatts.

There were no voltage regulators, so operators depending on their own eyesight to gauge the proper brightness for lamps. There was no fuse protection, so any short circuits caused by fuses or falling branches caused a complete shutdown of the plant until the problem could be found and corrected. In 1882, service was from dusk to dawn; 24 hour service came later. Distribution lines were of bare copper wire, and early house wiring had only a light insulation of cotton for protection. Examples of all this early equipment may still be found at H.J. Rogers' home, now the Hearthstone Historic House Museum.

Although the Vulcan Street Plant burned to the ground in 1891, an exact replica was painstakingly built and opened to the public on September 30, 1932, to celebrate the plant's 50th anniversary. In 1987, the replica was moved to the banks of the Fox River, closer to the plant's original location near the Lawe Street Bridge. See ASME website for more information